Wednesday practices are over, which means it’s time for teams to submit their initial injury reports of the week. The Vikings and Lions have each submitted their reports, and since its Week 14 there is a lot to go over.
We’ll break down each team, starting with the Vikings…
Held out of practice on Wednesday were LG Steve Hutchinson (illness), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), QB Christian Ponder (hip) and DE Brian Robison (concussion). The Vikings also had 4 players who were limited in practice, including CB Asher Allen (shoulder), LB Chad Greenway (elbow), DE Everson Griffen (quad) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hand). LB E.J. Henderson (shoulder) and RG Anthony Herrera (knee) were both listed as full participants.
There are no real surprises on that list for the Vikings. During his Wednesday press conference, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated that both Peterson and Ponder would be held out of practice. Frazier was optimistic that Ponder could play this Sunday.
For the Lions, the following six players did not participate in practice: S Louis Delmas (knee), DT Nick Fairley (foot), CB Chris Houston (knee), DE Lawrence Jackson (thigh), RB Kevin Smith (ankle) and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (not injury-related). LB Justin Durant (hamstring), CB Brandon McDonald (thigh), G Rob Sims (shoulder) and DE Willie Young (ankle) were all limited.
There aren’t any big surprises here, either. With DT Ndamukong Suh out for the game (suspension), the health of Fairley will be important this week. He was the team’s 1st-round draft choice this year and has missed significant time this year because of the foot injury. With Suh out, Fairley becomes even more important in that DL rotation for the Lions. The health of Delmas and Houston is also important for the Lions defense because both players are starters. Delmas is more of a force in the run game, while Houston is the team-leader in INTs with 4.
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The Vikings secondary came under significant fire in the aftermath of last Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, a game in which Tim Tebow passed for 202 yards and 2 TDs along the way to registering a 149.3 passer rating. But last weekend was not the genesis of criticism aimed at the Vikings pass defense.
Opponents have completed 68.2% of their passes against the Vikings and have a 24-6 TD-INT ratio. Add it all up and opposing passers have a rating of 106.5 against the Vikings, the 2nd best rating in the NFL.
“We talked in depth about it the last couple days, and what we can do to try and help our guys on the back end, and we’ll try some things,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “You can only do what you can do. But we’re going to try to do some things to offset what’s happening with some of the quarterbacks that we’re facing.”
In the Vikings defense, the secondary is beyond beat up. Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield is on IR, and so are starting safeties Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson. CB Asher Allen was missing last week and CB Chris Cook is not expected back any time soon. When you’re down that many guys, it’s unreasonable to expect a team to recover quickly, especially with the number of young and inexperienced players who are forced to step into the action.
And so, with the Vikings preparing to face the pass-happy Detroit Lions this weekend, the Vikings secondary will continue to be scrutinized over the next few days. Certainly the group of Vikings DBs who will suit up on Sunday are doing everything they can to correct their mistakes from a week ago, but Frazier also pointed out that the onus of stopping Detroit’s passing attack does not land squarely on the shoulders of the secondary.
“This is a good pass offense we’re facing, they’ve done a very good job this season, and it’ll be a tremendous challenge for our secondary,” Frazier explained. “But it’s going to require more than our secondary to slow their pass offense down. We’re going to need our front to play big for us, along with our linebackers, to help our secondary. And if we can get that, then I think we can change some of those numbers.”
Frazier is correct. Defending the pass is about combining good coverage with a good pass rush, and the Vikings prospects for pressuring Stafford are pretty good. Detroit had allowed zero sacks heading into their first meeting with the Vikings, but Jared Allen (3.0) and Brian Robison (2.0) changed that.
To slow down the Lions passing attack this weekend, the Vikings will need both improved play from the secondary and a pass-rushing presence from Allen and Co.
Tags: Brian Robison, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier
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In search of their first NFC North win of the season, the Vikings will travel to Detroit this weekend to take on the Lions. This marks the 101st meeting in the all-time series, and the second time this season the Vikings and Lions will share the field.
Against the Vikings in Week 3, the Lions erased a 20-0 halftime deficit and narrowly escaped Mall of America Field with a 3-point victory in overtime. That win for the Lions moved them to 3-0 and helped them to a 5-0 start. But as the Lions prepare for the Vikings this weekend, they’re trying to get out of a funk that’s seen them lose 3 of their last 4 games and 5 of their last 7.
The biggest issue surrounding the Lions right now is their propensity for penalties. Only 3 teams – Oakland, Seattle and Tampa Bay – have had more penalties called against them and only 1 team – Oakland – has had more penalties called against their defense. Highlighting this problem for the Lions is the fact that their best defensive player – DT Ndamukong Suh – is currently serving a 2-game suspension following his ejection from a Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers in which he was penalized for unnecessary roughness.
It will be interesting to see how the Lions respond this weekend as they return home for a game against the Vikings. The Lions had 3 more penalties after the whistle (and 11 penalties accepted overall) last week against the Saints, and both Head Coach Jim Schwartz and veteran leaders, such as C Dominic Raiola, were seen pulling players aside to speak with them about the penalties. Given that Suh will be missing from this game and that the Lions are in the thick of a playoff chase with just 4 games to go and are playing at home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a more disciplined Lions team this Sunday.
As for the Lions between the whistles and before penalty flags are thrown, they’re a solid team that relies on the passing game and a high-scoring offense. The Lions boast the NFL’s 5th-ranked passing offense (281.3 yards per game) and the 4th-ranked scoring offense (27.8 points per game), and its QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson who lead the effort. Stafford is having the best season of his career, as he’s completed 63.0% of his passes and has a 27-14 TD-INT ratio. Johnson has been dominant all season and is tied for 2nd among all NFL WRs with 1,092 receiving yards. No WR has more TD catches than Johnson’s 12 and no WR is more dangerous in one-on-one situations or near the end zone than the 6-5, 236-pound playmaker.
If Stafford isn’t throwing it to Johnson, it’s likely that WR Nate Burleson or TE Brandon Pettigrew is the target. Pettigrew is 2nd on the team in receptions and Burleson is 2nd in receiving yards. With starting RB Jahvid Best out, expect the Lions to continue to lean heavily on the pass. No team has rushed the ball fewer times than the Lions this season.
Defensively, the story is Suh being out. But even with the playmaking DT out of the lineup, the Lions still have an intimidating defensive line. Sammie Hill will take Suh’s place in the starting lineup, and surrounding him on the front line are RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LDE Cliff Avril and fellow DT Corey Williams. Add guys like DE Lawrence Jackson and rookie DT Nick Fairley to the mix, and you can see that defensive line is one of the stronger areas of this Lions team.
The Lions are battling injuries in the secondary, as both run-thumping S Louis Delmas and CB Chris Houston missed last week’s game in New Orleans with knee injuries. S Chris Harris and CB Alphonso Smith are capable replacements, but the secondary is stronger with Delmas and Houston in the lineup; Houston leads the team in INTs with 4. The Lions have the NFL’s 11th-ranked pass defense, rank 4th in yards per attempt allowed (6.5) and have yielded a stingy 77.9 passer rating to opposing QBs.
A few other interesting Lions statistics…
— Detroit’s offense ranks 31st in 3rd down conversions (30.3%)
— The Lions rank 4th in the NFL with 23 takeaways (15 INTs) and they are +5 in turnover margin
— The Lions offense scores a TD on 59.5% of their red zone drives, which ranks 6th in the NFL
— No NFC WR has more receptions for 20+ yards than Calvin Johnson’s 17
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As is the case each Wednesday during the NFL season, fans can head to Mall of America tonight from 6:30 to 7 to check out “Vikings Country,” a weekly radio show hosted by Mike Mussman and co-hosted by either Jared Allen or Chad Greenway. Tonight, Allen is the co-host.
The show will be broadcast live from the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar at Mall of America – located on the fourth floor, east side – every Wednesday during the regular season and will air on KFAN (FM 100.3); the show will also be aired on Fox Sports North at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. Allen and Greenway will alternate weeks as co-hosts of the show with Mussman, and the Vikings Street Team will be at each broadcast giving away great prizes.
Fans are encouraged to attend the live broadcast each week at the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar, where they will enjoy a state-of-the-art restaurant and entertainment facility that features high definition TV’s, quality billiards, 12 lanes of bowling and a great menu of beverages and food.
Allen will co-host the following nights: tonight and Dec. 21. Greenway will co-host on Dec. 14 and Dec. 28.
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